Udall: Climate change ‘moral test of our age’
At the end of last month, Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund lapse. First authorized by Congress in 1964, the fund directs revenue from oil and gas drilling toward projects that conserve land and water. The idea is that as the nation depletes some natural resources, it conserves others. And the money is used for all sorts of projects in national parks and forests, state and local parks and also for drinking water and water quality projects across the country. For decades, the fund enjoyed widespread bipartisan support. (Probably because states and local governments all benefit from the fund.) But this year? Congress couldn’t agree on its reauthorization and let the fund die.
In New Mexico, the fund has invested more than $300 million, said U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat. The failure of Congress to reauthorize it will hurt tourism and the outdoor recreation economy, he said, and leave important conservation projects in limbo.
And this is part of a trend. Congressional Republicans continue to wage attacks on bedrock environmental laws such as Endangered Species Act and the Antiquities Act of 1906, while the White House directs federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior to weaken public health protections and prioritize energy development over other uses of public lands.
“The administration’s attack on public lands—from rolling back monuments which are sacred to pueblos and tribes in New Mexico, to leasing oil and gas near Chaco Canyon without public input or tribal consultation—will do irreparable damage to our most treasured open spaces and breathtaking natural landscapes,” Udall said. “Taken together, all these actions threaten our economy, our landscape, our health—and our way of life in the West.”
Udall also said New Mexico is on the “frontlines in the fight against climate.”
“In recent years, New Mexico has had a front row seat to the damage inflicted by anti-environment policies: We’ve seen more severe droughts, reduced snowpack, raging wildfires, and hotter temperatures devastate our way of life,” Udall said. “The administration’s policies undermining our efforts to fight climate change will disproportionately affect rural, border and Native communities that are particularly vulnerable to the impact these changes will have on water resources, agriculture, air pollution and public health.”
Despite mocking the idea of climate change, and referring to it as a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese government, Trump’s own administration recently acknowledged climate change.
To justify the president’s decision to halt federal fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, a draft environmental impact statement acknowledges human-caused climate change and its inevitable impacts. As reported by the Washington Post, “The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.”
In other words, the impacts of climate change, and a seven degree Fahrenheit temperature increase, are inevitable. Trying to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles is irrelevant.
Climate change is the “greatest threat our nation and world now confront,” Udall said, and the “moral test of our age.”
“The fact that those in positions of power understand that climate change is occurring yet refuse to take action is an absolute disgrace,” Udall said. “They have placed extreme ideology and profit over scientific evidence, sacrificing the well-being of current and future generations in the process.” He called the emissions standards issue “especially baffling,” given that most of the auto industry doesn’t support the rollbacks.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Southwest is among the regions of the world warming most quickly. And that is already affecting water resources.